Here’s How to Talk with Your Teen About Risky Supplements

When it comes to looking better, a magic pill can be appealing. This is especially true for teenagers, who often feel pressure to look a certain way. Unfortunately, many are turning to nonregulated supplements to reach their goals. Boys are more likely to try performance-enhancing substances, like protein powders, creatine, and anabolic steroids. Girls, on the other hand, report higher rates of diet pill use, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Steer your teen away from making dangerous choices with these do’s and don’ts for talking about supplements:

Don’t rely on advice from health food stores.

When a student researcher posed as a 15-year-old wanting to bulk up, more than two-thirds of sales attendants recommended creatine. This supplement is not advised for anyone younger than age 18 by the AAP and American College of Sports Medicine. Remind your teen that it’s the job of people who work in these stores to sell you something—even if there’s no proof it works—and that they’re often not educated on the risks of a particular supplement.

Do emphasize a balanced diet.

Whether a teen—or anyone—is looking to lose or gain weight, it all comes back to the building blocks of nutrition: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Eating the right amounts of these foods will lead to results, no supplements necessary. Serve meals with fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, and nuts, and stay away from packaged and processed foods.

Don’t shy away from discussing the issues.

Due to lax regulations in the supplement industry, products can be labeled wrong or even contaminated by pesticides and heavy metals. And perhaps more persuasive to teens, they often don’t do what they promise. Share this information with your teen.

Do nurture self-esteem.

Adolescents who feel good about themselves will be less likely to turn to extreme measures to achieve aesthetic perfection. Praise your teen for his or her accomplishments and efforts, support your teen’s interests, and encourage love of self and body.

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